The Mushroom Apocalypse and the Kabbalah

The “mushroom apocalypse” is probably best described by Lurianic Kabbalah. Here’s a quick overview (thanks to Wikipedia).

Primordial Tzimtzum – Contraction of Divinity

Isaac Luria propounded the doctrine of the Tzimtzum, (meaning alternatively: “Contraction/Concealment/Condensation/Concentration”), the primordial Self-Withdrawal of Divinity to “make space” for subsequent Creation.

Previous Kabbalah taught that before the creation of the spiritual or physical realms, the Ein Sof (“Without End”) Divine simplicity filled all reality. In a mystical form of Divine self-revelation, the Ohr Ein Sof (“Light of the Ein Sof/Infinite Light”) shone within the Ein Sof, before any creation. In the absolute Unity of the Ein Sof, “no thing” (no limitation/end) could exist, as all would be nullified. About the Ein Sof, nothing can be postulated, as it transcends all grasp/definition. Medieval Kabbalah held that at the beginning of Creation, from the Ein Sof emerged from concealment the 10 Sephirot Divine attributes to emmanate existence. The vitality first shone to Adam Kadmon (“Primordial Man”), the realm of Divine Will), named metaphorically in relation to Man who is rooted in the initial Divine plan. From Adam Kadmon emerged sequentially the descending Four spiritual RealmsAtziluth (“Emanation” – the level of Divine Wisdom), Beriah (“Creation” – Divine Intellect), Yetzirah (“Formation” – Divine Emotions), Assiah (“Action” – Divine Realisation). In Medieval Kabbalah the problem of finite creation emerging from the Infinite was partially resolved by innumerable, successive tzimtzumim concealments/contractions/veilings of the Divine abundance down through the Worlds, successively reducing it to appropriate intensities. At each stage, the absorbed flow created realms, transmitting residue to lower levels.

To Luria, this causal chain did not resolve the difficulty, as the infinite quality of the Ohr Ein Sof, even if subject to countless veilings/contractions would still prevent independent existence. He advanced an initial, radical primordial Tzimtzum leap before Creation, the self-withdrawal of Divinity. At the centre of the Ein Sof, the withdrawal formed a metaphorical (non-spatial) Khalal/Makom Ponui (“Vacuum/Empty Space”) in which Creation would take place. The vacuum was not totally empty, as a slight Reshima (“Impression”) of the prior Reality remained, similar to water that clings to an emptied vessel.

Into the vacuum then shone a new light, the Kav (“Ray/Line”), a “thin” diminished extension from the original Infinite Light, which became the fountainhead for all subsequent Creation. While still infinite, this new vitality was radically different from the original Infinite Light, as it was now potentially tailored to the limited perspective of Creation. As the Ein Sof perfection encompassed both infinitude and finitude, so the Infinite Light possessed concealed-latent finite qualities. The Tzimtum allowed infinite qualities to retire into the Ein Sof, and potentially finite qualities to emerge. As the Kav shone into the centre of the vacuum it encompassed ten “concentric” Iggulim (the conceptual scheme of “Circles”), forming the sephirot, allowing the Light to appear in their diversity.

Shevira – Shattering of the sephirot vessels

Main article: Tohu and Tikun

The first divine configuration within the vacuum comprises Adam Kadmon, the first pristine spiritual realm described in earlier Kabbalah. It is the manifestation of the specific divine will for subsequent creation, within the relative framework of creation. Its anthropomorphic name metaphorically indicates the paradox of creation (Adam – man) and manifestation (Kadmon – primordial divinity). Man is intended as the future embodiment in subsequent creation, not yet emerged, of the divine manifestations. The Kav forms the sephirot, still only latent, of Adam Kadmon in two stages: first as Iggulim (Circles), then encompassed as Yosher (Upright), the two schemes of arranging the sephirot. In Luria’s systematic explanation of terms found in classic Kabbalah:

  • Iggulim is the sephirot acting as ten independent “concentric” principles;
  • Yosher is a Partzuf (configuration) in which the sephirot act in harmony with each other in the three-column scheme.

“Upright” is so called by way of an analogy to the soul and body of man. In man the ten sephirotic powers of the soul act in harmony, reflected in the different limbs of the body, each with a particular function. Luria explained that it is the Yosher configuration of the sephirot that is referred to by Genesis 1:27, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them”. However, in Adam Kadmon, both configurations of the sephirot remain only in potential. Adam Kadmon is pure divine light, with no vessels, bounded by its future potential will to create vessels, and by the limiting effect of the Reshima.

From the non-corporeal figurative configuration of Adam Kadmon emanate five lights: metaphorically from the “eyes”, “ears”, “nose”, “mouth” and “forehead”. These interact with each other to create three particular spiritual world-stages after Adam Kadmon: Akudim (“Bound” – stable chaos), Nekudim (“Points” – unstable chaos), and Berudim (“Connected” – beginning of rectification). Each realm is a sequential stage in the first emergence of the sephirotic vessels, prior to the world of Atziluth (Emanation), the first of the comprehensive four spiritual worlds of creation described in previous Kabbalah. As the sephirot emerged within vessels, they acted as ten independent Iggulim forces, without inter-relationship. Chesed (Kindness) opposed Gevurah (Severity), and so with the subsequent emotions. This state, the world of Tohu (Chaos) precipitated a cosmic catastrophe in the Divine realm. Tohu is characterised by great divine Ohr (Light) in weak, immature, unharmonised vessels. As the divine light poured into the first intellectual sephirot, their vessels were close enough to their source to contain the abundance of vitality. However, as the overflow continued, the subsequent emotional sephirot shattered (Shevirat HaKeilim – “Shattering of the Vessels”) from Binah (Understanding) down to Yesod (the Foundation) under the intensity of the light. The final sephirah Malkhut (Kingship) remains partially intact as the exiled Shekhina (feminine divine immanence) in creation. This is the esoteric account in Genesis[11] and Chronicles[12] of the eight Kings of Edom who reigned before any king reigned in Israel. The shards of the broken vessels fell down from the realm of Tohu into the subsequent created order of Tikun (Rectification), splintering into innumerable fragments, each animated by exiled Nitzutzot (Sparks) of their original light. The more subtle divine sparks became assimilated in higher spiritual realms as their creative lifeforce. The coarser animated fragments fell down into our material realm, with lower fragments nurturing the Kelipot (Shells) in their realms of impurity.

Tikun – Rectification

Partzufim – Divine Personas

Main article: PartzufimThe sephirot in the scheme of Yosher (“Upright”), from which the partzufim develop

The subsequent comprehensive Four spiritual Worlds of Creation, described in previous Kabbalah, embody the Lurianic realm of Tikun (“Rectification”). Tikun is characterised by lower, less sublime lights than Tohu, but in strong, mature, harmonised vessels. Rectification is first initiated in Berudim, where the sephirot harmonise their 10 forces by each including the others as latent principles. However, supernal rectification is completed in Atziluth (World of “Emanation”) after the Shevira, through the sephirot transforming into Partzufim (Divine “Faces/Configurations”). In Zoharic Kabbalah the partzufim appear as particular supernal Divine aspects, expounded in the esoteric Idrot, but become systemised only in Lurianism. The 6 primary partzufim, which further divide into 12 secondary forms:

  • Atik Yomin (“Ancient of Days”) inner partzuf of Keter Delight
  • Arikh Anpin (“Long Visage”) outer partzuf of Keter Will
  • Abba (“Father”) partzuf of Chokhma Wisdom
  • Imma (“Mother”) partzuf of Binah Understanding
  • Zeir Anpin (“Short Visage” – Son) partzuf of emotional sephirot
  • Nukva (“Female” – Daughter) partzuf of Malkhut Kingship

The Parzufim are the sephirot acting in the scheme of Yosher, as in man. Rather than latently including other principles independently, the partzufim transform each sephirah into full anthropomorphic three-column configurations of 10 sephirot, each of which interacts and enclothes within the others. Through the parzufim, the weakness and lack of harmony that instigated shevirah is healed. Atziluth, the supreme realm of Divine manifestation and exclusive consciousness of Divine Unity, is eternally rectified by the partzufim; its root sparks from Tohu are fully redeemed. However, the lower three Worlds of Beri’ah (“Creation”), Yetzirah (“Formation”) and Assiah (“Action”) embody successive levels of self-consciousness independent of Divinity. Active Tikun rectification of lower Creation can only be achieved from Below, from within its limitations and perspective, rather than imposed from Above. Messianic redemption and transformation of Creation is performed by Man in the lowest realm, where impurity predominates.

This proceeding was absolutely necessary. Had God in the beginning created the partzufim instead of the Sefirot, there would have been no evil in the world, and consequently no reward and punishment; for the source of evil is in the broken Sefirot or vessels (Shvirat Keilim), while the light of the Ein Sof produces only that which is good. These five figures are found in each of the Four Worlds; namely, in the world of Emanation (atzilut), Creation (beri’ah), Formation (yetzirah), and in that of Action (asiyah), which represents the material world.

Birur – Clarification by Man

The soul of Adam included all future human souls, while the 613 Mitzvot relate to 613 spiritual “limbs” in the configuration of the soul

The task of rectifying the sparks of holiness that were exiled in the self-aware lower spiritual Worlds was given to Biblical Adam in the Garden of Eden. In the Lurianic account, Adam and Hava (Eve) before the sin of Tree of Knowledge did not reside in the physical World Assiah (“Action”), at the present level of Malkhut (lowest sephirah “Kingship”). Instead, the Garden was the non-physical realm of Yetzirah (“Formation”), and at the higher sephirah of Tiferet (“Beauty”).[13]

Gilgul – Reincarnation and the soul

Main article: Gilgul

Luria’s psychological system, upon which is based his devotional and meditational Kabbalah, is closely connected with his metaphysical doctrines. From the five partzufim, he says, emanated five souls, Nefesh (“Spirit”), Ru’ach (“Wind”), Neshamah (“Soul”), Chayah (“Life”), and Yechidah (“Singular”); the first of these being the lowest, and the last the highest. (Source: Etz Chayim). Man’s soul is the connecting link between the infinite and the finite, and as such is of a manifold character. All the souls destined for the human race were created together with the various organs of Adam. As there are superior and inferior organs, so there are superior and inferior souls, according to the organs with which they are respectively coupled. Thus there are souls of the brain, souls of the eye, souls of the hand, etc. Each human soul is a spark (nitzotz) from Adam. The first sin of the first man caused confusion among the various classes of souls: the superior intermingled with the inferior; good with evil; so that even the purest soul received an admixture of evil, or, as Luria calls it, of the element of the “shells” (Kelipoth). In consequence of the confusion, the former are not wholly deprived of the original good, and the latter are not altogether free from sin. This state of confusion, which gives a continual impulse toward evil, will cease with the arrival of the Messiah, who will establish the moral system of the world upon a new basis.

Until the arrival of the Messiah, man’s soul, because of its deficiencies, can not return to its source, and has to wander not only through the bodies of men and of animals, but sometimes even through inanimate things such as wood, rivers, and stones. To this doctrine of gilgulim (reincarnation of souls) Luria added the theory of the impregnation (ibbur) of souls; that is to say, if a purified soul has neglected some religious duties on earth, it must return to the earthly life, and, attaching itself to the soul of a living man, and unite with it in order to make good such neglect.

Further, the departed soul of a man freed from sin appears again on earth to support a weak soul which feels unequal to its task. However, this union, which may extend to two souls at one time, can only take place between souls of homogeneous character; that is, between those which are sparks of the same Adamite organ. The dispersion of Israel has for its purpose the salvation of men’s souls; as the purified souls of Israelites will fulfill the prophecy of becoming “A lamplight unto the nations,” influencing the souls of men of other races to do good. According to Luria, there exist signs by which one may learn the nature of a man’s soul: to which degree and class it belongs; the relation existing between it and the superior world; the wanderings it has already accomplished; the means by which it can contribute to the establishment of the new moral system of the world; and to which soul it should be united in order to become purified.